As adults, we have Google at our fingertips to help us process the growing pandemic known as the Coronavirus. Kids, on the other hand, overhear adults talking or get snippets of information from news or second-hand information from friends. Schools are closing, and the virus is rapidly spreading, leaving kids confused, scared, and lonely. Children primarily rely on socialization and structure for developing fundamental skills.
Here are some specific situations and ways in which you can speak with your kids and help them understand and respond to the changing situation.
1. Kids often have fears surrounding illness in general (just as adults do) and often have questions about what could happen to them if they were to get sick.
QUESTION: What happens to me if I get Coronavirus (or you get it)
It's best to share age-appropriately and honestly, rather than try to sugar coat what you think the virus can or cannot do. Explain to them that there is a lot we don't know about the virus but share what we do know. Provide statistics on how many of the cases are mild (you can find that data here) and information on symptoms, such as they are similar to cold and flu's they may have had in the past.
2. Kids are used to socialization, and it's an integral part of growing up (separating from mom and dad and learning social cues from friends). They may be afraid of hearing news of lockdowns and feeling lonely.
QUESTIONS: Will I ever see my friends again? Will we be able to get groceries to eat?
First, validate how they are feeling by saying something like, "I can see how that might be worrying you." Then ask them what is most important to them about their friendships and/or being able to go to the grocery store as example.
Then create solutions together that offer them ways to achieve their goals. Some ideas might be sharing the idea that there are many ways to engage with our friends via Facetime, Skype, phone calls. Consider having a few kids from school watch the same program on Netflix (a National Geographic perhaps) and sharing their thoughts on the show. Offer your child a journal as a haven to write how they feel when they are worried or lonely.
Explain things in rational terms. For example, you might say something like, "The government is doing this to help protect people from getting sick, we will, of course, be allowed to get food to eat, although we should be more mindful of waste and take extra care to make the right-sized meals.
3. Kids are used to routine and structure, with school closed they may be feeling confused about how their day will unfold and boredom.
QUESTION: Will I ever go back to school again? Will I ever play sports again? Will we ever go to the movies again?
Honesty is the key to these sort of "never ever" discussions. Nobody knows for sure (at the time of this publish) when schools will reopen or sporting events. It's best to respond in a way that shows you are confident, yet sincere, such as, "That's a great question. Unfortunately, we only know for now, that it will remain closed until _______, hopefully, we'll have more news soon. How about if I share anything I get from the school with you as soon as it's available?
Then ask questions open-ended questions (this offers kids a space to share more about their fears), such as, "What do you like most about school?"
Having worked from a home office for many years as a traveling Marketing Director for a Fortune 500 company, I can't express enough the importance of maintaining a routine, even if the routine looks different.
Consider having Monday-Friday wake up /breakfast and dress time remaining the same as school.
Structure the day similarly, school work, snack break, playtime, school work, lunchtime, playtime, and then a game or choice activity before dinner.
Consider getting some of their favorite books and a new board game, and there are many board games out there that incorporate learning, like these. There are fantastic free kids yoga videos on Amazon, and Pinterest is host to many at-home activities that only require necessary supplies.
As a parent, you must be mindful of how you take care of yourself and process what's happening as well. Kids model precisely what they see. Living in times of a pandemic is uncharted territory for most of us. It has many of us feeling melancholy as if we've left something behind. I recently shared in my eJournal that:
Normal is gone now. This is the new normal.
You may feel lonely, but you are not alone.
It's important to remember during this time that others are hurting too, maybe more than you. But we are going to be okay. This is part of our journey, our journey together. Together we will create our new normal. There is no better time to practice kindness, compassion, and gratitude.
But how, you may ask.
By BEING HERE NOW.
If you’ve heard my podcast or attended a workshop you know I often share the importance of BEING HERE NOW to move through whatever it is we’re going through.
What that means for me, is
- Allowing yourself to feel your emotions
- Finding something beautiful in the moment to enjoy
- Identifying a mantra that helps you move through the moment so that you can start to connect with your new normal
- What’s hopeful about my new normal, or what feels good in my belly about it
PROMPT (in your journal)
- How do I feel about what’s happening right now
- What around me, at this moment, is beautiful?
- What is a mantra I can use to carry me through this challenging time?
- What is hopeful about tomorrow?
Are you in need of someone to talk to during these trying times? Are you a client who is concerned to come to the office? You do not have to feel alone.
As a licensed psychotherapist, I have offered telehealth services since 2014, and I still offer it. If you are looking for a counselor, most health insurance companies have approved telehealth services. If not, you can consider a website like BetterHelp.com.
All you need in many cases is a smartphone, iPad or laptop to connect in this way.
I’m linking an excellent site to find a psychotherapist locally who may offer telehealth and some online solutions as well, and I also podcasted this week on Coronavirus / COVID-19. I shared some ways to move through fear, along with how to meet goals.